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The Conduit from Barrowby to Grantham

By the start of the fourteenth century the River Witham flowing through Grantham was a stinking mess of human waste, offal from numerous butchers and – worst of all – the stench of waste from tanning and soapmaking by rendering down animal fats.

No, I haven't come across a hitherto-unpublished record of living or travelling through Grantham at the time. But I do know that in 1314 a supply of fresh water was created at great expense. So presumably a reliable supply of 'safe' water was lacking.

The rest is purely deduction. Grantham's location on the Great North Road was already attracting travellers. Anyone affluent enough to travel on such routes was likely to expect a substantial meal – most probably of meat – for lunch or an evening supper. The need to provide hospitality meant that more people were living in Grantham than would be typical for a market town at the time.

Meat for the residents and visitors would have arrived at Grantham 'on the hoof'. The town's need for fresh meat would be met by a number of butchers. All of whom would slaughter on their own premises, washing blood into open drains (otherwise known as streets) until it flowed into the Witham. Unwanted offal may well have been dumped into the river. However, there would have been little waste as hides would go to one or more tanneries and the fat and marrow-rich bones would go to a rendering plant from which eventually would come soap.

Tanning and rendering are notoriously smelly trades which were located on the edge of towns. But tanneries needed copious supplies of water – and efficient drainage – so were usually near watercourses. At least until the advent of pumped water – 1880s maps show a tannery near the top of Green Hill to the west of the railway bridge at the bottom of Barrowby Road which clearly took advantage of pumped water being available in Grantham from the 1850s. The site has long-since been houses.

At the Junction of the Market Place and Conduit Lane in Grantham is the historic Conduit House. The one there now has been restored many times but is in essence the 1597 rebuild which replaced the first structure, known to have been built in 1314. See photograph at top of this page.

According to Ruth Crook of the Grantham Civic Society "In 1314, the Greyfriars, a Franciscan order who had settled in Grantham in about 1290, obtained permission from the Bishop of Durham, to enclose a spring of water in the south field of Gonerby, and pipe water in lead pipes to their house in Grantham, west of the Market Place.

"After the dissolution of the religious orders in 1539, their property was granted to Robert Bocher and David Vincent. The Grange was built on the site of the friary about 1542, which continued to use the water supply.

"In 1597 the Corporation built the Conduit in the market place, supplied by a branch of the Greyfriars pipe, which separated off at the boundary of the new Grange lands. The then owner of the Grange, Robert Bery (Bury), is mentioned on the Conduit, and he was also Alderman in 1597. Robert Parkins who had been Alderman several times, is also mentioned. He may have provided money towards its construction. There is also an inscription from Proverbs 5:16, which says ‘Let thy fountains be dispersed abroad and rivers of water in the streets’. The Conduit contained a cistern to collect and contain the water and act as a storage tank. An intake house was also built over the spring, in the fields between Dysart Road and Barrowby Road."


The 1888 map of land between Barrowby and Grantham.
Sheepwash Lane runs approximatetly north-south on the left.
Barrowby Road runs west-east at the top and DysartRoad runs west-east at the bottom. The Conduit House (more correctly an Inlet House) is highlighted in blue near the centre. This would be where several streams or piped water supplies joined together to flow into Grantham. The tannery on Green Hill (mentioned in the main text) is highlighted in blue at the top right.

The Intake House was vandalised and totally destroyed in the 1960s and 70s. Overlaying modern maps onto the 1888 map reveals that this Intake House once stood in what is now a back garden between Bristol Close and Guildford Close.

As you may have spotted, this Intake House is described as in a 'south field of Gonerby' in the 1314 documents. Yes, Great Gonerby parish formerly stretched south all down the eastern boundary of Barrowby parish, so included what is now Barrowby Gate.

Other local conduits

Two villages in the vicinity created conduits to improve their water supply.

One is Croxton Kerrial. The lack of one good spring led to several springs being piped together with an outlet near the village centre (so far as I am aware this has not survived). Any excess water was piped to the 'fountain' at the side of what is now the A607. In the late nineteenth century this was adapted into a 'spout' to enable traction engines to more easily refill with water before tackling the long ascents in both directions out the village.

Another was at Greetham in Rutland. The conduit 'house' still survives. From appearances this was built in the 1880s. In 1988 there was still an iron cistern at the back, though this had been removed by 2010.

Greetham's conduit outlet in November 1988.
The structure was built about a hundred years previously.


The inscription in June 2010.

The inscription on the stone almost matches an inscription added to the well-house at Ashwell, although this structure is older than the nineteenth century. My guess is that Ashwell residents were rightly proud of their eponymous well and were a bit miffed when Greetham (just along the road) built something more impressive, so added an inscription to the keystone of the arch.

Both the inscriptions allude to the fourth Gospel:– "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water" (John 4:10). Such inscriptions are entirely consistent with the 'Scripture Movement' of the 1880s.

More about Leicestershire and Rutland's holy wells (including Ashwell and Greetham) in this YouTube video.

If you think I've got something wrong – or can add additional information or photographs – then please email me:– bobtrubs@indigogroup.co.uk.

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what's new?

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summary of prehistoric Barrowby

summary of Roman Barrowby



Seventeenth and eighteenth centuries

Nineteenth century

nineteenth and twentieth century population

Twentieth century

guided walks in and around Barrowby

there's more could be said...


index of surnames in Cryer 1979

Articles and web links for nearby places

rare seventeenth fonts at Muston, Bottesford and Orston from Project Gargoyle Newsletter 2020

Ironstone quarries of Leicestershire
YouTube video

Wyville's wells

Harston's Anglo-Saxon carvings

Bottesford's effigies

Grantham Canal Society

The Grantham Canal
All you need to know – and more – from Wikipedia

Croxton Kerrial manor house excavations
photos and brief details from Leicester Mercury.
By 2021 the remains had been consolidated and there are annual open days.

Harlaxton History Society

Bottesford History Group

Grantham Civic Society

Grantham Museum

Heritage Lincolnshire